We ended up leaving a late on Monday, after taking Vivian to be added into the army's computer system as a dependent, and stopping at the store to buy few last minute miscellaneous supplies. We made pretty good time, but still didn't arrive in Moab, UT until about 6pm or so, where we stopped to purchase some firewood and enjoy an experience that we now just refer to as "poops on the loose." Suffice it to say that Vivian was strapped back into her car seat minus her little outfit, and acting a lot happier than she had been before the incident that ended in a wet wipe bath.
The Canyonland's campground was full, because, as we learned later on, the campground was filled 30 minutes after checkout time that morning. It would seem that we aren't the only ones who thought that coming in the fall would be a great idea. My husband, however, is thankfully a bit more of a planner than me, so he had already researched out neighboring BLM campgrounds. We secured ourselves one of the last remaining campsites there, hurried and set up camp and started working on the fire...and hours later there we were, still working on the fire. We eventually realized that it's a horrible idea to buy firewood from an establishment that stores the wood outside in an area that has just experienced record breaking rainfall. We finally gave up and made ourselves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and went to bed.
The next morning we woke up and left to go explore the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands. (Canyonlands is split up into four districts: Island in the Sky (most tourist friendly), The Needles, The Maze (accessible only to backpackers), and The Rivers (which is the actual rivers that run through the park)) We stopped in at the visitor's center to buy a hat for Vivian. For some reason we weren't able to find one for sale anywhere back home before we left. The smallest one they had was still for toddlers, but we figured it was better than nothing, so we bought it.
I strapped her in the baby bjorn, and then covered her with a light swaddler blanket to keep the sun off of her limbs. She looked weird, but it worked well, and the hat was nice because I could shift it around to keep the sun off her face without having to cover it completely with the blanket.
|Don't judge me, we were camping without any running water.|
Justin at Shafer Canyon Overlook
Green River Overlook
Justin at Dead Horse Point State Park, which is conveniently right next door to Island in the Sky
Justin at Grand View Point Overlook
We also went on three short little hikes. We would have liked to do something more ambitious, but it was so blazing hot outside that we were a little wary of having Vivian out in the heat for any of the longer hikes. A couple of these hikes had signs up at the trailheads that discouraged visitors from hiking them in July and August because of the extreme heat. As you can probably imagine, they were still really hot in mid-September.
Vivian and I at Upheaval Dome
By the end of the day we were feeling pretty satisfied with our time in Island in the Sky and decided to leave the next morning to go to the Needles District the next morning. Another attempt at a campfire failed miserably, our soggy wood still refused to burn for more than a few minutes before going out. We ended up roasting hotdogs on burning kindling and they ended up kind of charred on the outside and warmish on the inside. Another sub-par dinner.
We left early the next morning and drove the two hours out to the Needles to make sure that we secured ourselves a campsite in the park. We got there in plenty of time, and our campsite was actually pretty amazing. There was also running water there, a bonus since there had been no such luxury at the last one.
You can't see here, but there are bushes and trees on either side that obscure our campsite from the neighbors.
Our first day in the Needles seemed to be a bit of a fiasco. We realized shortly after arriving and setting up camp that we needed gas, and that required a two-hour round trip drive into Monticello. We still made it back out to the Needles in time to complete a few short hikes.
That thing at the top is supposedly some sort of Indian granary.
Cave Springs Trail
Slick Rock Trail
We actually abandoned Slick Rock Trail part way through. There was a thunderstorm threatening, and it was moving our direction faster than we liked. We headed back to camp, made dinner on the gas stove that night, which went a lot better, and then climbed in the tent for the night.
We had all started drifting off to sleep, when in a move that I attribute to divine intervention, I decided to wake up the baby and nurse her one more time before putting her in the swaddler for the night. I had just fed her a little while earlier, so I knew I didn't have much for her, but I felt like I should, so I got up and was nursing her by flashlight, when I caught a glimpse of something, that we believe to be some sort of scorpion darting through the folds of her swaddler. I woke Justin up, and he got rid of it. We got settled back in for the night, but I don't think that either Justin or myself slept all that well after that. All night long I was sure something was crawling on me. At least Vivian wasn't swaddled up with a scorpion.
Prior to the scorpion incident Justin and I had briefly talked about leaving Canyonlands the next day, extending the trip a day, and driving to Natural Bridges National Monument, spending the night in Capitol Reef National Park, and visiting Bryce Canyon National Park on our way home Friday evening. After the scorpion incident it was a sealed deal. We both wanted to strip everything out of the tent and get a chance to shake it all out. We woke up early the next morning and packed up camp. We had one hike called Chesler Park that we wanted to do before we left. It was only 6 miles round trip, but it turned out to be a little harder than we had anticipated, so we were glad that we had left early in the morning while it was still cooler.
Because of the time of day, we were really backlit in that last picture, but you can see that Vivian is sporting only a diaper. As soon as we arrived in Chesler Park she immediately blew out her diaper. Fortunately, we had thought to bring along an extra diaper and wipes, just not an extra outfit. We didn't think to bring an extra pair of pants for me either, since I always seem to be the one victimized by these blow outs. Although, I was sweating so much hauling her up there that I figured that I already smelled bad enough that the baby poop probably didn't matter much at that point.
On the way back out we were making really great time. We were moving pretty fast because we wanted to get off the trail before it got really hot, and we also wanted to be on the road before it got too late. We got to a place where the trail splits into different directions, and Justin was stopping to look at the sign. I rushed him, and told him we needed to keep moving, so we hustled past it pretty fast...in the wrong direction. An hour or so later we were out of water, hiking through terrain that didn't look even vaguely familiar and wondering when this hike was going to end. We had been worried about me getting dehydrated and it affecting my milk supply, so I had been drinking a ton of water and was doing okay, Vivian had been nursed at Chesler Park, and we had used some of the last of our water to dump on her to make sure she was staying cool, so she was holding up just fine, but Justin had stopped sweating, which is never really a great sign when you're hiking through the desert at mid-day. Hours and miles later than we had planned the trail spit us back out at the campground where we had stayed the night before, which was about four miles from the trailhead where our car was parked. There was water at the campground, so after rehydrating, Justin left Vivian and I there in a shady spot, and had to go hitch hike his way back to the car. Some random guy from Germany picked him up and gave him a ride.
Getting lost put us really behind schedule, so we didn't end up getting to Natural Bridges National Monument until late afternoon/early evening. We would have liked to have hiked down to some of the bridges, but there simply was not enough time.
You may note that Vivian does not appear in this last picture of us by the sign. That's because after dragging her in and out of the car at different bridge overlooks, she had become excessively crabby, and finally fallen asleep. We decided it was best to just pullover, snap the picture without waking her, and continue on our way. She woke up again as soon as we got back in the car. We thought that since we were behind schedule that we might just camp at Lake Powell for the night. By the time we arrived at the sadly inadequate campground at Lake Powell, Vivian let us know that she had been pushed too far. We had, after all, dragged her out at the crack of dawn to pack up camp, then carted her through the desert all morning and afternoon, and thwarted her multiple attempts at a late afternoon nap with all sorts of interruptions with everything from cattle guards, and fueling stops, to scenic overlooks. She had run out of patience with us, and it became apparent that this was going to be a hotel night.
We drove into Hanksville, a town no bigger than it sounds, and checked into the Whispering Sands Motel, which was, to our surprise much nicer than we had dared hope. Not only did it not cost us an arm and a leg, but it was clean. We got to take much needed hot showers, and Vivian got a bath in the sink and then fell asleep and slept for an astonishing 10+ hours that night. I had to wake her up twice to eat and she dropped right back off to sleep afterwards. We finally had to wake her up to get to the last 10 minutes of our complimentary breakfast. She was much more herself the next morning and we decided that with a little more rest and all of us clean again that we could extend the trip one more day, and instead of driving home, camp the night in Bryce Canyon.
We got into Capitol Reef National Park in the late morning and went on a recommended scenic drive and visited a few overlooks.
Justin on a stop along the scenic drive
The Goosenecks Overlook
We also had time for one short hike to Hickman Natural Bridge. Our legs were still pretty stiff from the previous days adventures in the desert, but we found this hike to be well worth our efforts.
We left Capitol Reef and drove over Boulder Mountain, through Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, and on to Bryce Canyon.
At the top of Boulder Mountain
Scenic overlook at Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
It seems like there is never enough time for us to see and do everything that we want to when Justin and I go on a trip. This was little expedition was no exception to that rule. We wished that we had another week to burn just to explore the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, but we didn't, so we're already thinking we'll have to go back there again some time to do it justice.
We got to Bryce early Friday evening. Justin dropped Vivian and I off at the visitor's center for me to nurse her, while he rushed off to try and secure us a campsite, since we had been told there were only a few open ones remaining. Thankfully, he was able to find us one, and we hurried and set up camp and then left to go take in a couple of overlooks before it got dark. At the very first overlook Justin took this picture:
He handed me the camera and I was getting ready to take a very cute picture of him holding Vivian, and then literally, at the very moment I hit the shutter, the camera battery died. Our camera has an internal battery that charges from a USB port, and we had left the charger at home. So there we were in Bryce with no camera. We ended up racing into town, paying $10 for a disposable film camera, and rushing back out to snap the pictures. They haven't been developed yet, so standby for those.
We returned to camp where our third and final efforts at building a campfire were at long last successful. The next morning we went on a hike that went all the way down to the bottom of the canyon and then back up again. The trail coming back up looked alarmingly steep, but Justin agreed to take Vivian for the trip back out. We loved the hike, but we could have done without the other tourists. Something we learned early on during this camping trip is that the fall is when the parks are overloaded with foreignors, and senior citizens, with a large number of people falling into both categories. They travel in packs from one park to the other in a big tour that starts in Zion and ends at the Grand Canyon. We felt like we had stumbled into the middle of some sort of senior citizen trip. We saw two or three other families with children the entire trip. Naturally Vivian was a huge hit, with the old folks, and we quickly discovered that the word "baby" seems to be universal to all languages since we would hear it all the time mixed in with a foreign language, as we passed people on the trails. Until that hike in Bryce people had been very nice, and even openly supportive of me packing a baby around on the trails. We were halfway through the Bryce hike when some old guy shouted at Justin as we passed "Dad should be carrying the baby!" Justin said that he wanted to yell back "Grandpa should mind his own business!" There is a part of me that wishes that he had.
When we got about halfway through the switchbacks out of the canyon I told Justin it was his turn to take her. We found a shady corner, and while we were readjusting the carrier for Justin some guy who seemed overly concerned about his own health (Justin had spotted him earlier on the trail stopping to check his pulse), told us that he thought that Vivian looked red and was overheating. She wasn't red, or overheating, and we basically ignored him, but the other older couple there taking a break suddenly assumed a look of alarm and judgement while watching us. We got more looks of concern when Vivian suddenly decided she was hungry and wanted to nurse NOW! She started writhing around in the carrier, and screaming at the top of her lungs. People were staring at Justin like he was killing her, and me like I was incompetent for not realizing what was happening. We hustled ourselves up out of the canyon faster than I would have thought that I was capable, if you had asked me a minute or two prior to her outburst. Back at the overlook I nursed her and all was well again.
We decided that we had time for one more little hike and then it was time to head home. We hiked to a place called Mossy Cave, and saw a waterfall along the way that I think is one of the coolest ones I've ever seen, so hopefully those pictures come out well. After that we determined that it was time to head home. We decided to take highway 89 home instead of I-15. It was a much better drive, in our opinion, and we made it back to our apartment Saturday evening.
This was our first family camping trip, and in many ways it went really well, but we learned a few things along the way. Our baby is a fantastic sleeper, and I would love to attribute it to some brilliant parenting move on my part but, the truth is that she just came to us that way. She slept just as well in a tent as she does at home. The only down side to this, is that she also doesn't typically require any night time diaper changes. Instead she saves everything up, and then has a series of massive bowel movements every morning. Typically, at least one of them escapes the confines of her diaper. We packed 13 outfits for her. We used all but two, both of which were long-sleeved and inappropriate for the weather most of days we were gone. Next time we will pack an extra outfit for me, so I don't smell like a sweaty dirty diaper all day following a morning blow out. We thought we had packed enough diaper wipes, but after "poops on the loose" and a few days of camping in sites without running water, where we used some of her wipes to conduct our own personal hygiene, our wipes supply reached critical levels and we were forced to pay an exorbitant price to replenish them at a gas station along the way. Next time we will pack more. We also bought one case of water bottles for the trip, even though we knew that some of our campsites wouldn't have water, and the weather would be hot and dry the entire trip. We ended up needing three, and again, paying a ridiculous amount for the two that were purchased along the way. Next time we will buy a sufficient amount. Next time we will buy the firewood in town before we leave, from an establishment that stores it indoors, so that it doesn't take the entire trip to dry out enough to actually burn. Next time we will bring our back up cameras with us, and a way to charge our other camera in the car. Next time we will be diligent about keeping our tent zipped up all the way, rather than just most of the way. Next time we will have an emergency supply of formula/baby food on hand should Vivian freak out on the trail where it's difficult to stop and nurse. I can't wait for next time, and I hope that it will be just as much fun as it was time.